Posted November 21, 2014

Best Exercise In Ever: Ab Wheel Rollout Tutorial

I’m about to head out the door to catch a flight to Los Angeles for what should be an awesome weekend. Tony Gentilcore and I are teaching a workshop in Anaheim at Crossfit 714, and then Lindsay and I will head out to Hermosa Beach for a couple days, maybe tour into Hollywood, stalk some random celebrities, the usual. We also have a couple of special guests/friends who will be popping by, and the fact that the weather in Edmonton is currently below freezing and the weather in Los Angeles is, well, not, is definitely a bonus as well.

As a result, today’s post won’t be a really long one, but it will include a video tutorial on how I coach and cue the ab wheel rollout, which is one of the best anterior core stability exercises I’ve found. Some of the key benefits to this movement:

  • It teaches core stability with the pelvis in lock down mode, and also involves a lot of upper body strength at the same time.
  • Spinal positional awareness has to be huge in terms of whether you’re allowing the spine to flex or extend, and whether there’s a “point of no return” when you can’t maintain neutral anymore and wind up crashing into extension.
  • Core tension plus breathing control behind the brace is a definite must, as long as you want to avoid blacking out.
  • The movement is scalable to ability levels, progressing from small movements form the knees to full standing rollouts to your nose.
  • integration of glute tension with ab tension in a neutral posture is imperative to core stability, in any position and relative to any load. In this case it makes gravitational load operate in the transverse plane versus the saggital plane, giving a different loading parameter than most are used to with conventional upright positioning.
  • Very little produces the same type of soreness through the core compared to 10 solid, intense reps challenging your end range of motion of a roll out.


Enough blabber, let’s get at ‘er.

You could also sub in a barbell with 5 pound plates on either end in place of an ab wheel when in a pinch.

A more regressed version could also involve using a stability ball and going from the forearms. This is a great option for people who have a big reduction in strength or who are recovering from some spinal or core injury.

Some key technique pointers mentioned in the video:

  • The low back should not go into extension, and would be best positioned in either neutral or even light flexion.
  • Don’t let the upper back and shoulders round excessively to make up for a lack of lumbar flexion. The head, chest and hips should be in a relatively straight line.
  • flex the glutes HARD. This makes sure you have the pelvis in neutral with the rest of the lumbar spine, and also causes the abs to contract harder through co-contractile tension development.
  • Breathe out through pursed lips to slowly increase abdominal contractions as you lower down into the movement, making sure you don’t blow out all of your air until getting back to the top of the movement.

These can really be a technical movement that takes a lot of practice and dedicated self-study to get right. Don’t just blast through them for speed or ego, or you’ll wind up with a sore low back and abs that don’t detail your desired outcomes.